The '76 Mets had two solid months early on but then fell ten games back in the standings by early June. They were as far back as 19 1/2 games in early August. They played well enough to actually gain ten games in the standings, from late August going into late September, winning 16 of 23 games.
From September 18th to September 28th, they would win nine of ten games with a six game win streak. In an eight day period they would also have three walk off wins.
|Joe Torre & Mickey Lolich|
Monday September 20th 1976: A small crowd of 5,922 came out to this Monday afternoon matinee at Shea as Joe Fraziers Mets (80-70) hosted Danny Murtaugh's Pittsburgh Pirates (85-64). Veteran Mets pitcher Mickey Lolich took the mound, going up against Brooklyn born John Candaleria for the Bucs.
In the home 3rd, Bud Harrelson & Lee Mazzilli got on base with base hits, next three more Mets singles from Felix Millan, Joe Torre & Dave Kingman all brought in runs.
The Pirates tied it on RBI doubles from Rennie Stennett, Bob Robertson & Frank Taveras.
In the top of the 8th, Willie Stargell hit a long HR off Lolich to put Pittsburgh ahead 4-3.
In the bottom of the 9th, Kent Tekulve, who was emerging as one of the games better relievers, came on to close it out for Pittsburgh. He got the first two outs, then John Milner came in to pinch hit & singled.
Next up, the young Lee Mazzilli, only in his 13th career game, blasted a shot over the green Shea wall, hitting his first career walk off HR to end the game. Mazzilli was highly touted & this added to the start of his popularity. Mazzilli went 2-4 with a HR, two RBIs & two runs scored on this day.
Friday September 24th 1976: Four nights later The Mets (82-71) hosted Jim Marshall's Chicago Cubs (71-84). For the Mets it was Tom Seaver, who would only win 14 games this season, second lowest win total in his career up to that point.
Seaver did lead the league in strike outs (235) for the fifth & last time of his career. His opponent that day, future Met, Ray Burris.
The next inning, the Cubs Jerry Morales drove in two runs with a base hit. In the home 3rd, Mets veteran Ed Kranepool hit his 9th HR of the year. Kranepool was batting at .292 on the year.
In the 5th, the Cubs went ahead again, Pete LaCock tripled & scored as Larry Bitner drove him in.
Trivia: Pete LaCock was son of the Hollywood Squares game show host Peter Marshall.
From the bullpen, Bob Apodaca came on for the Mets & held down the Cubs the rest of the way.
In the 8th, Burris allowed hits to Felix Millan & Eddie Kranepool. Cubs Reliever Joe Coleman came on & surrendered a game tying single to Dave Kingman.
Trivia: Coleman's father; Joe Coleman & his son Casey Coleman would both play in the major leagues.
In the bottom of the 9th, another Mets September call up; Billy Baldwin (the player GM Joe McDonald insisted come over from Detroit in the Rusty Staub trade) hit an exciting walk off HR. It was Baldwins only HR as a Met, as he only play nine games for New York in his career.
Meanwhile Rusty Staub would drive in 96 runs or more in his three full seasons with the Tigers.
Tuesday September 28th: In this first game of a twi night double header, the Mets (76-71) would host Charlie Fox's Montreal Expos (53-104). The young Dominican, Nino Espinosa would go for New York against Joe Keener.
In the 3rd, Pepe Frias singled & was sacrificed over to second. Former Met Del Unser then drew a walk, another former Met, Tim Foli would hit a sac fly scoring Frias & future Met, Ellis Valentine would bring in Unser with a base hit making it 2-0.
In the 4th, Keener walked the Mets pitcher, Nino Espinosa & then Bruce Boisclair. Felix Millan then singled & an Expos error led to both runs scoring, to tie the game.
|Mets Reliever Skip Lockwood|
In the bottom of the 8th, Eddie Kranepool hit his 10th HR of the year, as he connected off Steve Dunning tying the game up at four apiece. Eddie was not done with his heroics for this night.
In the 9th, Joe Kerrigan came on to pitch for Montreal. With two outs Bruce Boisclair & newly acquired Jim Dwyer (who came from the Expos) also singled. John Milner walked to load the bases for Eddie Kranepool.
Steady Eddie came through once again, lining the game winning single to right field scoring the rookie Boisclair. Kranepool had three hits & two RBIs on the night, he would bat .292 coming off two .300 plus seasons.
Unfortunately the Mets would lose their last five games of the seasons.